Covid 19: 60 new community cases today: 6 Omicron cases in MIQ; second border-related case in the community

There are 60 new community cases of Covid-19 today – and a second instance of a person with Omicron being in the community.

The Ministry of Health has just released the information.

The ministry says the second border-related case is an Air New Zealand crew member who worked on a flight between Auckland and Sydney on December 24.

They were tested for Covid-19 in routine surveillance testing on December 27.

“Whole-genome sequencing has confirmed the Omicron variant and has also confirmed the case is linked to three other Omicron cases on the same flight,” the ministry said.

“The case was immediately transferred to a MIQ facility.

“The case is fully vaccinated. Eight close contacts have been identified, seven of whom have returned negative test results.

“At this stage, there are no known locations of interest.”

Earlier today, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said up to 100 people could be isolating as a result of close contact with the man who tested positive for Omicron and spent time in the community.

Last night it was revealed an Omicron-positive person – who later turned out to be British DJ Dimension, real name Robert Etheridge – had been active in the Auckland community for two days.

The DJ – who had travelled to New Zealand to perform at the Rhythm & Alps festival – spent seven days in MIQ, before then transferring to an approved beachside location for MIQ.

Etheridge ended his stint and spent two days in the community – including going to Auckland bars and restaurants and Waiheke Island – before he got the results of his day-nine Covid test; the one which would come back as positive.

Testing is available on Waiheke Island today, the ministry said at 1pm.

Anyone who attended the Hidden Lakes Festival – where a close contact of the DJ performed – and is concerned should ring Healthline, the ministry said.

Only a small number of contacts of this case attended the festival, all of whom had negative tests beforehand. The public health risk is considered low, the ministry said.

At this stage, there are no known contacts or cases associated with Rhythm & Alps festival.

A further interview with the DJ is under way to determine additional locations of interest, the ministry said.

The ministry said Etheridge arrived on December 16 “and as required under the previous regime for international arrivals, completed a full 10 days in isolation; seven days in a managed isolation facility and three days in self-isolation. They were tested on day nine but did not wait for a negative test result before self-releasing.

“Under the previous regime, those leaving a managed isolation facility were able to complete their three days self-isolation at home or in other accommodation. The case completed their self-isolation on Waiheke Island, we understand they travelled by private car and ferry to the island. While on the ferry they did not leave their vehicle and travelled straight to their accommodation.

“All international arrivals are now required to complete their full 10 days of isolation in a managed isolation facility and must return a negative day nine test before they are released.

“From January 7, all travellers to New Zealand will have to have a PCR test no more than 48 hours before flying, down from the current 72 hours.

“Contact tracing has identified a number of known close contacts, all of whom are being contacted and asked to isolate and test.

“This includes close contacts identified via case interviews and from locations of interest including Impala nightclub. Additionally, push notifications have been sent to any person who scanned into any LOI that the case visited.

“These notifications include public health advice on testing and isolation. All identified close contacts are being urgently contacted by contact tracers.”

The ministry said whole genome sequencing of the other Omicron cases at the same managed isolation facility showed “the case is not linked to others who stayed at the same facility. At this stage, there is no evidence of in facility transmission”.

The Canterbury District Health Board has also just confirmed that six close contacts of the international artist with Omicron are self-isolating in Christchurch under the management of the local public health unit.

A spokesperson said the public health risk assessment for people who attended the Hidden Lakes festival at Hagley Park on December 28 is considered extremely low – particularly due to the six close contacts’ prior negative test results that day and significant physical distance between the stage and the crowd.

Community cases of Delta

There is one new community case in Northland, 20 in Auckland, 28 in Waikato, eight in Bay of Plenty, one in Lakes, one in Tairāwhiti and one in Canterbury.

One case in the Hokianga harbour reported today is a household contact of a case, and was already isolating at home when they tested positive.

In Waikato, 24 new cases have been detected in Te Kūiti, two in Te Awamutu, one in Ōtorohanga, and one pending location confirmation.

All but one case in Waikato have been linked to previous cases, and one is under investigation.

“The majority of Te Kūiti cases have been linked to two exposure events with attendees identified as contacts by public health and notified prior to testing positive,” the ministry said.

Six of the eight new cases reported in Tauranga today are linked to previous cases. Two are still under investigation. All cases are isolating.

A new case in Rotorua is a household contact of a previous cases.

A new case in Gisborne is a close contact of a previously reported case, and was already isolating at home. They have now been moved into managed accommodation.
A new case reported in Canterbury is isolating in an MIQ facility, and is linked to another case.

There are 44 people receiving hospital care across Auckland, Tauranga and the Lakes district. Seven people remain in ICU.

Testing numbers bumped up slightly in the last 24 hours – with 13,851 tests been carried out, 6274 of which were in Auckland.

Testing numbers in previous days have been lower than usual due to the holiday period, the ministry said.

More than 15,000 booster shots were administered across the country yesterday, along with 1134 first doses of the vaccine and 6627 second doses.

Waikato District Health Board (DHB) now has 90 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated.

Canterbury DHB has become the third DHB area to be 95 percent fully vaccinated, joining Auckland and Capital and Coast DHBs.

New Zealanders are being urged to get vaccinated, as a “key defence” against Omicron and other variants.

“We want vaccinations to continue increasing and ask everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. This is also a timely reminder for people over the age of 18 to get their booster shot if it has been six months since their last vaccine dose,” the ministry said.

From January 5, people only need to wait four months from their last dose, before accessing a booster shot.

More than 1000 tests were processed in the Waikato yesterday, and 63 cases are now isolating at home in the region.

In Auckland, 1331 people are isolating at home – including 337 cases.

Border cases

There were 11 Delta cases at the border, and six Omicron cases (bringing the total number of cases of the latter variant to 78).

Among the 11 new cases identified at the border, the majority have arrived from Australia, the United Kingdom and Singapore between Christmas Eve and December 27.

Yesterday there were 46 new cases reported across Northland, Auckland, Waikato,Lakes, Tairāwhiti and Canterbury.

After genome sequencing results were returned, the ministry confirmed a total of 71 Omicron cases detected at the border.

It jumped by 17, from a total of 54 cases on Tuesday to 71 on Wednesday – the highest spike in Omicron cases since the first case was detected in New Zealand on December 16.

People are being urged to get tested if they think they have symptoms, or if they have been in a location of interest.

Testing rates have been lower than usual over the holiday period, the ministry said.

“I think it’s disappointing he didn’t follow rules,” Hipkins said of the Etheridge situation.

“The Omicron variant, up until this one case, has been well contained at the border.”

He visited a nightclub, bar, restaurants and a jewellers in Auckland CBD across December 26 and December 27 – before receiving the positive results of his day nine test.

Other international and local DJs who were to perform at a number of music festivals over summer, were named as close contacts, forcing them to pull out at the last minute in order to self-isolate as a precaution.

He also spent time in Waiheke Island over Christmas.

Etheridge was one of the last people to move through the seven-day managed isolation and three-day self-isolating system, before it was tightened up to prepare for the new variant.

“We ask people to isolate until after they get the results from their day nine test,” Hipkins said.

“We ask people to stay in their bubbles while self-isolating.

“That hasn’t been the case here and that’s very disappointing.

“It is of course a reminder … that while many of us feel like we’re over Covid, Covid-19 is not over with us,” Hipkins said.

Health officials this morning had confirmed to them that the DJ did not pick up Omicron in MIQ.

He is the only person in New Zealand with the particular genome sequence, so it is unclear how he contracted the variant.

Hipkins said the community exposure doesn’t necessarily mean areas will have to move to the red level of the traffic light system.

The ministry had previously said they did not believe the DJ was “highly infectious”.

Etheridge released a statement on social media overnight, which said he was “devastated” to test positive.

He claimed he completed seven days of managed isolation and three days of self-isolation.

“To my shock and enormous concern, I unexpectedly received a positive test on day twelve, two days after my isolation period had ended.”

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